Doctrine of Discovery: Stolen Lands, Strong Hearts” is a documentary film that delves into the devastating impact of the Doctrine of Discovery on indigenous populations around the world. This legal and religious framework has been used for centuries to justify European colonization and the dispossession of Native peoples and their lands.
At the heart of this documentary lies a powerful message about the struggles faced by indigenous communities, as well as their resilience in the face of ongoing injustice. Through interviews with indigenous leaders, scholars and activists, “Doctrine of Discovery: Stolen Lands, Strong Hearts” examines the origins of the Doctrine of Discovery, which can be traced back to a papal bull issued by Pope Nicholas V in 15th century Europe. This bull granted European explorers the right to claim any non-Christian lands they discovered and subjugate its inhabitants. As a result, this doctrine served as a moral and legal justification for widespread displacement and genocide across North America, Australia, New Zealand and Africa.
The film also shares powerful stories from individuals who have experienced firsthand how this doctrine has affected their lives and their communities—stories that are often overlooked or ignored by mainstream history books. We hear from members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy who have been fighting for decades to reclaim their sovereignty over their lands; we learn about efforts to challenge this doctrine through initiatives such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; we meet activists who are working tirelessly to reclaim language, culture, land and resources; and we see how these experiences illustrate both colonial oppression as well as indigenous strength.
In short, “Doctrine of Discovery: Stolen Lands, Strong Hearts” is an important film that shines light on an often forgotten part of our shared history while providing a platform to honor those whose lives have been impacted by it. For anyone looking for ways to expand their understanding around indigenous issues today, this documentary is a must-watch—one that highlights not only injustices but also resilience in its fullest form.